Travel

10 Apr 2021, 17:54 PM

STA, 10 April 2021 - The government has expanded the list of exceptions for entry in Slovenia without quarantine or the need to produce a negative PCR test, to include accredited journalists and persons who enter the country for emergency reasons. Coronavirus tests performed in the US and UK have meanwhile been added to the list of valid tests at border crossings.

Under the new decree adopted late on Friday, added to the lists of exceptions are accredited journalists on an official trip abroad and persons coming to Slovenia to take measures relating to elimination of health, life or property risks or material damage, and who are returning home within 12 hours.

Moreover, work migrants and persons posted to perform cross-border services will no longer be ordered to quarantine if they produce a negative PCR or rapid antigen test not older than seven days under the condition that they return to Slovenia within five days. So far, this applied only to daily work migrants.

In addition to PCR tests or certificates confirming that a person has recovered from Covid-19 performed or issued in the EU member states or the Schengen Area, those performed or issued in the US and UK will also be valid for entry to Slovenia.

There are also some changes related to red-listed countries, as the entire Austria is now in the red, as well as Denmark. All administrative units of Spain are also in the red except for Extremadura, Galicia, Balearic Islands, Murcia and Valencia.

09 Apr 2021, 11:43 AM

STA, 8 April 2021 - The Constitutional Court has stayed a provision of a government decree which restricts travel to countries on Slovenia's red list of high-risk countries due to Covid-19, pending its final decision.

In a decision published in the Official Gazette on Thursday, the court invoked its right to stay legislation to prevent the occurrence of irreparable damage.

It said the decree, adopted by the government in late March, "severely restricted" the right of all those with residency in Slovenia, Slovenian nationals as well as foreigners, whereby the rules for leaving the country are stricter than for entering.

The right of individuals to leave the country is enshrined in many international legal instruments and is key to the functioning of a democratic system.

It may be restricted only in the pursuit of a legal and constitutionally admissible objective, whereby individual circumstances must be considered and the limitations may not cause discrimination.

"The continued implementation of the contested provision would encroach on the right of a large number of residents of the Republic of Slovenia to leave the country."

"It is also necessary to consider that limitations on the freedom of movement may cause other consequences to physical and mental health, property, family life and other areas that are hard to rectify or irreparable," it said.

The decision was passed in a 8:1 vote following petitions by three applicants, with judge Klemen Jaklič dissenting.

The government decree, which governs measures on the border designed to minimise Covid-19 transmission, entered into effect on 29 March.

It banned travel to all red-listed countries - all of Slovenia's neighbouring countries included - except for individuals who have been vaccinated, convalescents, and a narrow set of exemptions.

One way to avoid the ban was to pay a EUR 400 fine under the communicable diseases act.

In one instance last week, the Administrative Court issued a temporary injunction allowing an applicant to leave the country without paying a fine.

Interior Minister Aleš Hojs said the decision meant Slovenia would not be able to get rid of the virus soon, adding that Constitutional Court judges were not accountable and were incapable of decisions save for temporarily staying legislation.

Asked whether it was possible the decree will be adjusted, he told the STA people would be allowed to leave the country freely, but entering would not be so simple anymore.

05 Apr 2021, 18:22 PM

An interview with Steve Hartley, the Osilnica-based camp director from Australia.

At Explorer Camps you’ve had a lot of contact with children of all ages and their families. What impact are these virus affecting times having on our children?

Statistics gathered before covid show that 1 in 5 teenagers are living with a mental illness.

Sounds unbelievable, right? We didn’t believe it when we were first presented it in our youth mental health training for camps, but it’s actually true.

The truly scary part is that it's more likely to be 1 in 4 adolescents or even 1 in 3. This is because it’s based on diagnosed cases, and considering that many children simply won’t go through the formal steps of getting a formal diagnosis done then … the number is without doubt higher!

And remember, this is all from BEFORE we got hit by this virus.

Related: Slovenia’s Foreign Entrepreneurs: Steve Hartley, Explorer Summer Kids' Camps

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Shocking statistics. Is it safe to say that our youngsters could be experiencing some form of mental health crisis?

This is the cold hard truth facing all parents and it paints a very troubling picture for the future. Reportedly, over 25% of our teen population is living with some kind of mental illness and recent times have led to this number being even higher.

A recent poll from C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital shows that the mental health effects of the pandemic are more likely to have a significant impact on teenagers. It says that 46 percent of parents say their teen had shown signs of a new or worsening mental health condition since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.

Even our adults are feeling the effects. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 4 in 10 adults have reported anxiety or depressive disorder symptoms during the pandemic.

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So, children aren’t alone in this mental health crisis?

Not at all. The summer camp industry is calling it a ‘collective trauma.’ From grandparents to grandchildren, from rich to poor, all ages, classes and levels of society. Everyone has lost something. Maybe they’ve lost a loved one. Maybe they’ve lost a life experience such as graduation, or dropping off their children at kindergarten for the first time, or getting married. Maybe they’ve lost a job or income. Everyone has lost something which has led to this ‘collective trauma.’

Do you think that our youth is especially impacted?

Judging by recent polls, limited studies, and personal experiences … yes.

In ‘normal times,’ if we can even say there’s such a thing, our children turn to their parents or adult like figures for guidance. However, during the pandemic parents simply don’t have the answers because no one really does …. so, who can the youth turn to next? Google. And then it gets even more confusing! Maintaining a positive state of mental health is becoming increasingly challenging for our youth.

For example, it’s been widely reported in the US that suicides rates have gone up during the pandemic.

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Is this suicide rate being reflected in Slovenia?

It’s difficult to know at this stage as such information isn’t really public knowledge, especially amongst children. However, an example is Clark County in the US which has experienced over 20 teen suicidal deaths since the start of the shutdown last March which represents an over 67% increase on the previous year. Very worrying times as the pandemic has been solely blamed for this outcome.

They definitely are. How about we look at what the mental state SHOULD be. What is pre-teen and teenage mental health?

Mental health is a way of describing social and emotional wellbeing. Children need good mental health to develop in a healthy way, build strong relationships, adapt to change and deal with life’s challenges.

Parents should be asking whether their pre-teens and teenagers:

  • Feel happier and more positive about themselves and enjoy life.
  • Have healthier relationships with family and friends.
  • Do physical activity and eat a healthy diet.
  • Get involved in activities.
  • Have a sense of achievement.
  • Can relax and get a good night’s sleep.
  • Feel like they belong to their communities.

There is one BIG question though …

… in the current COVID affected times where children have been repeatedly restricted to their homes without direct contact with their friends and usual extra-curricular activities and been constantly glued to their screens …

… is it actually possible for parents to answer positively to all of these questions? I’ve got my doubts.

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You brought up ‘screen time’ which seems like a buzzword in these times. Do you think the overuse of technology plays a major role when it comes to youth mental health?

According to experts, it’s definitely a contributing factor and is why Explorer Camps has been tech free from our conception. We’ve always believed in the importance of our youth detoxing from electronic media as much as possible and in these times it’s even more vital than ever.

Some studies are suggesting that screen time is up over 180% when compared to already high use prior to the pandemic, so it’s frightening even contemplating just how badly affected our youth are and what the long-term impact may be.

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What could some of these impacts on our youth be?

There was an interesting study, pre-covid of course, which highlighted that one in three girls is unhappy with their appearance by the age of 14. Whereas, only a year before the number was 1 in 7. This incredible drop off in less than a year is credited to the significant increase of screen time amongst teenagers. And this was before covid remember.

This is just one example of many apparent negative consequences of screen addiction which we’ve covered in an article we wrote, with anxiety and depression being the clear issues of many that arise from our dependence on electronic media.

Is it safe to say that depression amongst teenagers is the biggest concern for parents?

In fact, no. Looking at that 1 in 5 number, 33% of these teenagers are diagnosed with anxiety related disorders whereas depression is 17%. Depression without doubt is something we all need to be aware of, but it isn’t as prevalent as mass media would like us to think.

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What are some signs parents can look out for in connection to anxiety?

Again, I’m certainly no expert on this area but when it comes to anxiety, we train our summer camp staff to be aware of:

  • Children constantly seeking reassurance through questions
  • Excessive worry
  • Easily distracted and/or fidgeting (playing with the hands, grabbing things)
  • Not being able to sit still
  • Stomach/headaches that have no physical cause
  • Excessive sweating & physical discomfort

It’s also possible that children detach themselves more from their families, and can also display a little more aggressive tendencies whether that be verbal or physical. One of the key areas to look out for is difficulties in sleeping.

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Sleep is one of the areas parents will see affected the most. Why is that?

Well, the excessive screen time has definitely had its impact on children’s sleep patterns. But we could also point to the lack of structure in our children’s lives due to the everchanging school and extra-curricular schedules. We can even talk about the heightened stress response, in other words flight or fight, due to the complete confusion of how to react to the virus. What do children do? It’s a very challenging time for everyone and sleep seems to be paying the price for it.

You mentioned earlier that your summer camps are conducting specific mental health training. Could you tell us more?

It’s something we’ve been wanting to do for a number of years now, however we could never find the right organisation to give us adequate support. There are some mental health trainings in the UK, but nothing specifically for summer camps so it took some time to find L.E.A.D. which is based in the US.  

Adding to this, it’s been difficult planning for it with the uncertainty around the camps. At present I’m going through the process of getting officially certified as an instructor in Camp Mental Health so I’ll not only be able to train our staff but also our teen campers who also want to complete such training. Maybe it’ll be too early to officially certify all of our staff for this summer though. We’ll see.

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This seems like a new concept. Are there other camps in Slovenia doing the same type of training?

In regard to this specific organisation, we’ll be the first summer kids’ camp in Europe to have their mental health certification. There are mental first aid courses in Europe especially in the UK, however when it comes to camps as far as we’re aware we’ll be the first.

In saying that, I’d hope that all organisations working with children have some type of mental health training, especially in these times. Our children need support and understanding now more than ever which is what we’re doing at Explorer Camps.

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Lastly, taking all of this information into account. What can parents do about mental health?

Oh, that’s a hard one as again, I’m no expert on this matter … yet!

But the most important thing we communicate to our staff at summer camp is to take mental health seriously. Be aware. Be patient. Create a positive and caring environment.

Because, unfortunately, it’s just not taken seriously by society. It really isn’t.

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You don’t think parents take it seriously enough?

I’m not saying that directly at parents, but society in general.

I liken it to this situation.

If a child breaks their leg, the last thing we say is to walk it off.

If a child contracts a serious disease, we wouldn’t dream of saying that it’s all in that child’s head.

If a child has an accident and loses feeling in their legs, we wouldn’t dare tell them to sleep it off and see how they feel in the morning.

But when it comes to mental health, too often those with the illness are told exactly this. Walk it off. It’s in your head. Sleep it off and see how you feel in the morning.

The first step to helping is changing our perception of what mental health is and how we can improve it. By making this simple change, children will feel our honest compassion and care. Then you can start to move forward … together!

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If you’d like to learn more about Explorer Summer Kids’ Camps, then visit their website or Facebook page

02 Apr 2021, 11:47 AM

STA, 2 April 2021 - US tech giant Google will update its Street View service for Slovenia, starting on 8 April, said the Information Commissioner on Friday. Slovenia was first included in the application in 2014.

Google will take new photos in a number of Slovenian cities and towns, including, among others, Ljubljana, Maribor, Škofja Loka, Murska Sobota, Črnomelj, Postojna, Kočevje, Ptuj, Kranj, Novo Mesto, Celje, Koper, Nova Gorica, Brežice, Slovenj Gradec and Grosuplje.

The Information Commissioner said that it had not received any further information, adding that more information about personal data protection was available on Google website.

Google started to capture images of Slovenia's streets with its fleet of camera-equipped cars in the summer of 2013, whereas Street View was launched in the country in January 2014. Since then the company has been regularly updating the imagery.

Slovenia was the 55th country to be included in the application, which offers 360-degree imagery of streets and tourist sites. So far, more than 80 countries have been included in the project.

01 Apr 2021, 12:27 PM

STA, 31 March 2021 - The Motorway Police Department became formally operational on Wednesday in what is a major step towards the formation of the Slovenian motorway patrol. The first patrols aimed at boosting the enforcement of traffic rules and improving safety on the motorway network are expected to hit the road in June.

Announcing the establishment of the department, the police said that the increasing volume of traffic on Slovenian motorways had led to traffic jams, accidents and violations of rules, while illegal migration and crime were also on the rise.

"The presence of police officers should therefore be increased on motorways and expressways," the police said, adding that the first step was the Motorway Police Department, to be followed by the Specialised Motorway Police Unit Ljubljana.

The latter is expected to dispatch the first patrols in June, and to be followed by four more regional units (Koper, Novo Mesto, Celje and Maribor), to be established by May 2022 so that the entire motorway network is covered.

According to police spokesperson Maja Ciperle Adlešič, once fully operational, the Slovenian highway patrol will employ 285 police officers, some of whom would be reassigned, while fresh recruits from police schools would also be hired.

The department, which is headed by former acting Police Commissioner Andrej Jurič, will be seated in Postojna. Its members will wear special uniforms and insignia.

Initially, it will perform only traffic control, while in the long run it is expected to gradually perform other elements of police work, such as criminal investigation, search for suspects and prevention of illegal migration.

It will be connected with other police units, traffic safety organisations and law enforcement authorities from Slovenia's neighbouring countries.

The police said that in addition to smuggling of illegal migrants, the Slovenian motorway network is being used for smuggling of illicit drugs and theft, in particular on rest stops during the peak tourist season.

At the opening ceremony in the building of the former traffic police, where the department will be seated, Interior Minister Aleš Hojs said that the department had long been a wish of the police and the national motorway company DARS.

"With the greater presence of police patrols on motorways we want to raise the level of traffic culture," he added.

DARS is to support the work of the new department, including with funds and by co-financing equipment and providing infrastructure on the Slovenian motorway network, but DARS chairman Valentin Hajdinjak did not want to go into details.

"Together with the police, we are introducing order on Slovenian motorways and guarantees that motorways will be safer," Hajdinjak added.

As for traffic safety, the national Traffic Safety Agency, which supports the idea of highway patrol as an "additional element of road traffic safety", noted that the number of accidents on Slovenian motorways had actually been decreasing.

While there were 1,956 accidents in 2018 and 1,947 in 2019, the figure dropped to 1,284 last year, while the number of pile-up collisions has been increasing, mostly as a consequence of hold-ups.

Speeding remains the main cause of accidents, followed by drivers not keeping a safe distance, and driving in the opposite direction.

Between 2017 and 2020, a total of 51 people were killed on Slovenian motorways, 183 were gravely injured and 1,934 sustained minor injuries.

30 Mar 2021, 19:01 PM

STA, 30 March 2021 - Slovenia's latest restrictions on the crossing of borders ban all travel to high-risk countries save for a few exemptions. The interior minister says people not among the exemptions may leave the country - provided they pay a fine.

It is up to the attending police officer to determine whether a person who wishes to leave the country qualifies as one of the exemptions.

When they do not qualify but still wish to leave the country, officers simply give them a fine, which starts at 400 euros, and let them leave, Interior Minister Aleš Hojs told the press on Tuesday.

"You cannot physically lock people into the country," he said.

"I personally believe the restriction of movement, in so far as not being allowed to leave the country is concerned, is perfectly appropriate," he said.

The decree has already been challenged at the Constitutional Court by a group of owners of property in Croatia, who believe their property rights are being curtailed.

Hojs said that if the Constitutional Court decided the decree is not constitutional, the government would comply with the decision.

Under the decree, which entered into effect yesterday, travel to red-listed countries is banned for Slovenian residents.

There are two general exemptions - those who have had Covid and those who have been vaccinated - and a number of narrower exemptions, for example for hauliers, cross-border commuters and students, and for emergency services.

29 Mar 2021, 15:11 PM

STA, 29 March 2021 - Toughened restrictions on Slovenia's borders entered into effect today in advance of an eleven-day lockdown kicking in on 1 April, while there are fewer exemptions and the testing requirement has been stepped up. The closure of some border crossings is already causing problems for daily commuters.

Except for a narrow list of exemptions, travel to all red-listed countries - all of Slovenia's neighbours are on the list - is prohibited and the mandatory ten-day quarantine upon entry from such countries cannot be prematurely ended with a test.

All passengers from red-listed countries will have to quarantine unless they show a PCR test made in an EU or Schengen-zone country in the last 48 hours.

A certificate of vaccination with the Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna or AstraZeneca vaccine, or proof that the person has had Covid-19 in the past six months, suffice as well, provided it has been issued in an EU or Schengen-zone country.

Some passengers may enter Slovenia without quarantining or testing: international hauliers, hauliers leaving or entering the country for no more than eight hours, persons in transit, diplomats, and youths under 13 commuting to school daily and their drivers.

There are also several groups of passengers who may avoid quarantine with a rapid or PCR test that is no more than seven days old. These include daily cross-border commuters, persons over 13 crossing the border to go to school and their drivers, owners of land on both sides of the border, and persons on emergency trips.

School children cannot be exempted from the quarantine or testing requirement when schools are closed.

Several border crossings closed today, causing problems to Slovenians commuting daily to work to neighbouring countries, foremost making their travel much longer.

Mayors from Koroška, a region bordering Austria, thus urged the government to open Vič, Holmec and Radelj 24 hours a day, meaning they are classified border crossings A, and all the other border crossing in the area from 5am to 11pm (classified as B).

They stressed that no border crossing in their region is open 24/7, while Vič and Holmec are open only between 5am and 11pm.

Opposition SD MP Jani Prednik, who comes from Koroška, addressed an initiative to the government to adopt "a rational and realistic border-crossing regime" for daily commuters and those who have to cross the border due to urgent matters.

All the news on covid and Slovenia

28 Mar 2021, 17:12 PM

STA, 28 March 2021 - Slovenia will step up restrictions on its borders on Monday in advance of an eleven-day circuit-breaker lockdown over Easter (details), the government has decided.

Travel to red-listed countries - all of Slovenia's neighbours are on the red list - will be prohibited except for cross-border commuters, transit, goods and certain other emergency exemptions, Interior Minister Aleš Hojs told the press on Sunday.

Except for daily cross-border commuters, who already have to get tested every seven days with a rapid antigen test, all passengers will have to show a PCR test made in an EU or Schengen zone country to avoid mandatory quarantine.

In the interim period until school closure on 1 April, cross-border students will also be exempted.

A vaccination certificate or proof that the person has had Covid-19 in the past six months also suffice.

The reason why PCR tests now have to come from an EU or Schengen zone country is the "disproportionately high number of forged test results," in particular from Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, according to Interior Minister Aleš Hojs.

Hojs said a major reason why the measures on the border had to be beefed up to prevent an expected surge in travel over Easter, when many from the former Yugoslavia who work here go visit their family.

The government decree will be published in the Official Gazette today.

All our news on covid and Slovenia

28 Mar 2021, 13:26 PM

STA, 28 March 2021 - A EuroNight train taking passengers from Slovakia's Bratislava via Vienna to Croatia's coastal city of Split later this year will cross Slovenia, with stops in the Slovenian towns of Maribor, Celje, Sevnica and Dobova.

The first train will leave Bratislava on 18 June before 4pm to arrive in Split next day before 10am, stopping in Slovenia late in the evening, according to the Austrian railways.

The route will be operated twice a week until mid-September, on Tuesdays and Fridays, with return rides scheduled for Wednesday and Saturday.

A return ticket costs less than 60 euro.

The EuroNight will offer car and motorbike transport yet only at train stations in Bratislava, Vienna and Split.

The Croatian tourist authorities hope the new route will enhance the number of Austrian tourists in the region of Dalmatia, in the south, whereas the majority of Austrians spending summer holidays in Croatia vacate more to the north, in Istria, the Bay of Kvarner and around Zadar.

25 Mar 2021, 08:29 AM

STA, 24 March 2021 - Negative rapid antigen test result will no longer be accepted to avoid quarantine on entering Slovenia, while dual owners and lessees of land in bordering areas will no longer need a negative test every seven days to cross the border, under a decision taken by the government on Wednesday.

The decision means that only a negative result of a PCR test taken within the past 48 hours will qualify as proof to allow quarantine-free entry into the country or to end quarantine early.

The same as before, arrivals can also avoid quarantine if they produce proof that they had been vaccinated against Covid-19 or have recovered from the disease within the past six months.

Such proofs include a positive PCR test result older than 21 days but not older than six months or a doctor's note proving the person has recovered from Covid-19 but not more than six months since the onset of symptoms.

However, a negative rapid test result no older than seven days remains valid as proof to enter Slovenia quarantine-free for those crossing daily for work or school when they are older than 13, the persons brining students or pupils across the border to school, those having a medical appointment in Slovenia or are returning from an EU and Schengen country where they provided care or assistance.

Dual owners and lessees of land in bordering areas will no longer need a negative test result to tend to land or do farm work across the border if they return within ten hours.

The government also made some changes to the red list of countries or regions as a result of which all Austrian regions are red except for Vorarlberg, all Italian regions except for Sardinia, while in Spain Cantabria, Extremadura, Galicia, Balearic Islands, Murcia and Navarra are removed from the red list.

22 Mar 2021, 14:54 PM

STA, 22 March 2021 - After a five-month break, Ljubljana Castle can again be accessed by funicular, but before buying a ticket, those yearning for a great view of Ljubljana have to prove that they are not infected with coronavirus, the city of Ljubljana's company operating the funicular said in a release.

The funicular was stopped on 24 October when the government tightened coronavirus restrictions as Slovenia entered the second wave of the epidemic, and except for five days in December, it remained closed until today.

The city of Ljubljana used the time for maintenance, thoroughly checking the entire funicular and the track.

Related: 25 things to know about Ljubljana Castle...

Following the check, the Ljubljanski Grad company obtained a permit and the funicular could resume operations today under the conditions valid for cableways.

Passengers have to produce a negative PCR or rapid test result not older than seven days, a certificate of vaccination, or a certificate of having recovered from Covid-19 not older than six months.

However, the company would like the funicular to be subject to rules applying to public transport where passengers do not have to prove their coronavirus status.

It has addressed a request to a relevant ministry but is still waiting for a reply.

Last year, Ljubljana Castle, one of the city's most popular sights, was closed for three and a half months, and visitor numbers plummeted by 76.5% to roughly 314,000 over 2019. The funicular, which was closed slightly longer, saw an even steeper drop, that of 83% to 97,600.

A rise in domestic tourists was recorded, yet foreign tourists still represented almost 60% of the total figure, the majority from Italy, Germany and the Netherlands.

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